BODGERS

Were the 19th century itinerant workers in the Chiltern beechwoods who made the sticks, legs and stretchers to supply the Windsor chair industry at High Wycombe. (Some also worked from home in a shed at the end of the garden like I do)
Often they lived and set up a workshop deep within the forest rather than fell the timber and take it home with them. So only finished components left the forest.

The pole lathe was ideal for this as the only parts they needed to take with them were the poppets (the head and
tailstock to hold the work) and the lathe bed - two planks.

The uprights were probably two saplings spaced roughly 3-4 ft apart and cut to a suitable height giving a very solid structure. The treadle was likely to be a forked branch and the power was supplied using a strip of leather or hemp cord tied to the tip of a springy young sapling orn overhanging branch. The cord was wound round the work and attached to the end of the treadle.

This was team work. Two to fell the trees and crosscut them to length (around 18" for most Windsor chair legs), another to split out and roughly round the billets with an axe and drawknife and another to do the turning.
They swapped around at intervals so nobody did the same job all the time. This sounds quite idyllic - working close to nature with the bluebells and pheasants but the actuality was a hard life. Bad conditions, out in all weathers and poorly paid - they had to produce a gross of chairlegs per day to make any money at it - about 3 minutes per leg !

Interestingly our modern word bodge or botch means to bungle a job or do it badly or clumsily whereas these men were highly skilled workers although they only did part of the job.

The chair factories would buy the components made by the bodgers and leave them to season as they were made from green wood and then assemble them into the finished chair.